Juneteenth is celebrated in the U.S. on June 19th, and celebrations of Juneteenth have become more and more widespread over the years. It marks a special day in United States history. Here are 5 things that will help you understand it:
1. The History Behind the Day
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, ultimately freeing slaves in the rebelling Southern States. The proclamation was a great feat; however, for over two years, some states still operated systems that were dependent on slaves. The Union lacked the capacity to enact the Emancipation Proclamation all over the country, and the news either spread slowly or was hidden.
Texas, a strong pro-slavery state, was the last state that still actively allowed slavery. Major General Gordon Granger and the Union soldiers, On June 19, 1865, arrived at Galveston, Texas, and announced the end of the Civil War and freedom of all slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation read thus:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
General Orders, No. 3, Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865
On December 6, 1865, The 13th Amendment, which was ratified, officially, and legally freed all slaves in the United States.
2. The name is a portmanteau of June and nineteenth
The name Juneteenth comes from a blend of June and Nineteenth. This is because, it was on June 19, 1865, that the Union soldiers arrived in Texas, and announced the Civil War’s end and the emancipation of slaves.
3. Juneteenth did not really mark the end of slavery.
Contrary to popular opinion, Juneteenth did not mark the end of slavery. In the Confederate states, slaves had been emancipated; however, slaves in the Union territory had to wait until December 6, 1865, before they were legally free. The legal status of “freedom” of enslaved people in Texas, was given to former slaves in court decisions between 1868 and 1874.
4. The first celebration was held in Austin, in 1867
The first celebration that marked Juneteenth was in 1867, in Austin. At that time, segregation laws barred African Americans from using public facilities, like parks, with whites. This limitation led to a pool of funds by freed people across Texas. The first celebration was held under the guise of the Freedmen’s Bureau. In Texas, black leaders had successfully raised a thousand dollars, with which they purchased 10 acres of land for the celebration. The land is known today as the Houston’s Emancipation Park.
5. Jubilee Day is the same as Juneteenth.
While activists are campaigning for this day to be recognized as a public holiday, it is worth noting that Juneteenth is the same day as the Jubilee day. As a matter of fact, June 19, 1865, in the early years of its celebration, was called Jubilee day. Jubilee’s day would eventually be changed to Juneteenth. It is also called Cel-Liberation Day.
Whitehouse.gov, (March 17, 2017); “Joint Press Conference with President Trump ad German Chancellor Merkel.”
Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/joint-press-conference-president-trump-german-chancellor-merkel/
Henry Louis Gates Jr., (n.d) “What is Juneteenth?”
Retrieved from: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-many-rivers-to-cross/history/what-is-juneteenth/
Abigail Rosenthal, Gatehouse Media, June 19, 2019; “5 Things to Know about Juneteenth.”
Retrieved from: https://www.telegram.com/zz/entertainmentlife/20190619/5-things-to-know-about-juneteenth